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Saddling Through Feel

I was used to the light weight English saddles for training a horse to saddle, introducing it in the same way as a saddle pad – on and off, move it around, simulate the girth etc. – and do up the girth only after the horse is relaxed about it all. I introduced a Western saddle after this preparation. The saddles at the ranch were top notch Western saddles and weighed in excess of 50lbs, with leather saddle bags and so forth. I was unsure how to introduce a saddle like this directly, “through feel”, beyond preparing the horse with a pad and simulated cinch and so on. How do you offer this to a horse in a way that he can get comfortable with, if you (and he) have no choice but to cinch up the first time it goes on his back? This felt more like a sink or swim strategy, which seemed to have little to do with feel. I asked Leslie for guidance, and I found out exactly how… “feel and release” of course…

I saddled Spring and cinched her, then passed her to Leslie, who was on a pipe fence panel. I had worked with Spring from up there quite a bit, so she was used to seeing a person up high. She had a pretty good understanding about following a feel on the lead rope too. Leslie asked her to move her shoulders away, one step at a time, then hips, then back again, presenting her side for a moment, level with Leslie. In a flash Leslie had leaned over and loosened the cinch. Spring took a deep breath and stood like a rock in response. After a moment, Leslie tightened the cinch again and repeated the process. By the third time Spring had understood perfectly and brought the cinch to Leslie to loosen.

saddling

Photo 23: Leslie demonstrates how to use feel and release when introducing the saddle.(Photograph by Trine Bohnsdalen)

Leslie didn’t teach her to saddle, she taught her to unsaddle, and taught her to park right by her on the fence for mounting in the process. The small difference in thinking on this should not be underestimated. Spring was crystal clear. She understood that Leslie’s intention was to offer something Spring really valued right then – to free her from a binding feel of confinement – and the filly freely reciprocated, offering partnership in return.


This article reports clinic experiences only and is not intended
for instructional purposes.

Colt Starting Through Feel, by Karen Musson, 03/20/2009 V2.1
© 2009 All rights reserved

 

Mark Rashid

RashidBookCover

"I see an 'opening' as anything that allows us to help guide, however briefly, an individual in the direction we ultimately would like to go. An 'opening' can be, and often is, a very subtle form of communication between horse and rider that can easily slip past us if we're not paying attention. 'Openings' can and do work both ways. [...] It amazes me just how small an 'opening' can actually be, whether working with horses or with people, and how easy it can be to create an 'opening' when one is needed."

Mark Rashid

"I truly believe developing the ability to see and use 'openings' effectively is only one piece of what one might refer to as the 'harmony in horsemanship' puzzle. When this idea of understanding 'openings' is brought together with the understanding of two other simlar ideas - making a connection with another indvidual, and the role distance plays in overall communication - I believe it is then that harmony in horsemanship becomes a much less daunting concept for us."

Mark Rashid

Leslie Desmond

LDaudiobook

"Bill knew about a place I did not know existed, or could exist, between a horse and a human being [...] Bill included each one of my horses in that information exchange. Over the course of many months,... he took each one by its lead rope and, later, by the bridle reins. Using what he called his 'better feel', Bill showed me and each of them exactly what he meant by what he did [...] It was not long after I made the switch from force when needed (often) to always customizing the feel I offered to a horse, that two tough horses I had misunderstood for years developed into my most reliable mounts."

Leslie Desmond

The lightest hands carry intent that is recognized instantly by the horse, as seen in the maneuvers he chooses to make with his feet. Whether that horse is ridden or handled, the lightest hands can purposefully influence the speed, direction and sequence of each foot with accuracy, in a manner that is reflected in the horse's body and on his face.

Leslie Desmond

Bill Dorrance

bilsbook

"The Real Masters Understood Feel [...] For example, De Kerbrech, (French officer in the cavalry of Napoleon III) really understood horses. He had it fixed up so the horse could succeed. [...] The first time I read Beudant's book was in the 1950s. The way he explained things, there was no doubt in my mind about what a person needed to do to get these little things working for them and their horse."

Bill Dorrance

“Feel, timing and balance: sometimes it’s best to talk about feel, timing and balance separately, and to learn how to apply each thing separately on the start. But when you apply these three things a little later in your training, then you see that each one of these things supports the other. They are interconnected and all three are real important. You really can’t get along without all three.”

Bill Dorrance

Faverot de Kerbrech

FaverotBookCover

“...plus le deplacement du poids est facile dans tous les sens, plus l'equilibre est parfait. En vertue de ce principe, on dit que le cheval est 'en equilibre' quand de simples indications suffisent au cavalier pour modifier a son gre la disposition du poids sur ses colonnes de soutien”

Faverot de Kerbrech

[Translation: ...the easier it is to shift the weight in any direction, the more perfect the balance. By virtue of this principle, the horse is 'in balance' when a simple indication from the rider is sufficient to modify the distribution of weight across the columns of support (four quarters) accordingly]

Duke of Newcastle

CavendishBookCover

"You must in all Airs follow the strength, spirit, and disposition of the horse, and do nothing against nature; for art is but to set nature in order, and nothing else."

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle

"A confrontational approach ‘Astonishes the Weak Horse […] makes a Furious horse Madd; makes a Resty Horse more Resty […] and Displeases all sorts of Horses’. The alternative however is not ‘to Sit Weak […] but to Sit Easie’, in the understanding that ‘The Horse must know you are his Master’"

William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle